“Less Stuff, More Heart” Student Writing Lesson

If you could ask for any non-material gift, what would you ask for? What would make this gift so special to you?

Students will read and respond to Christopher Zumski Finke’s article, “Less Stuff, More Heart: 5 Gifts On a New Dad’s Christmas List.”

In this article, Zumski Finke acknowledges that one way people connect is to exchange gifts—it’s a way to show our appreciation for one another. Now that he’s got a child in the house, Christopher wonders how he should deal with holiday commercialism that’s fixated on buying and giving gifts.

Download lesson as a PDF.

YES! Magazine Article and Writing Prompt

Read the YES! Magazine article by Christopher Zumski Finke, “Less Stuff, More Heart: 5 Gifts On a New Dad’s Christmas List.”

Writing Prompt:

Imagine you’re about to celebrate a special holiday, milestone, or birthday. If you could ask for any non-material gift, what would you ask for? What would make this gift so special for you?

Writing Guidelines

The writing guidelines below are intended to be just that—a guide. Please adapt to fit your curriculum.

· Provide an original essay title

· Reference the article

· Limit the essay to no more than 700 words

· Pay attention to grammar and organization

· Be original. provide personal examples and insights

· Demonstrate clarity of content and ideas

· This writing exercise meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W. 9-10.3 and W. 9-10.14 for Writing, and RI. 9-10 and RI. 9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text.*

*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an example.

Evaluation Rubric

Sample Essays

The essays below were selected as winners for the Winter 2018 Student Writing Competition. Please use them as sample essays or mentor text. The ideas, structure, and writing style of these essays may provide inspiration for your own students’ writing—and an excellent platform for analysis and discussion.

“Stolen Stories” by Eva Vallier, grade 7. Read Eva’s essay about longing to hear her family’s stories about the Japanese internment and experiencing the weight of history.

“Same Dreams, Different President” by Heriberto Nava, grade 8. Read Heriberto’s essay about using the power of his voice to stand up for immigrants and DACA recipients, especially those he holds close.

“A Break From Racism” by Rhys Hardiman-Mostow, grade 8. Read Rhys’s essay about standing up to racism as a young Black woman with big dreams.

“Broken Mirror” by Alejandra Wagnon, grade 11. Read Alejandra’s essay about the challenge of living up to people’s expectations and wanting to be true to one’s self.

“Kayla” by Jake Hill, grade 11. Read Jake’s essay about the experience of unexpected loss and learning to trust the journey.

“To Walk the World on Trembling Legs” by Remy Stewart, university. Read Remy’s essay about traveling while disabled and disrupting the notion of “go as you please” that many take for granted.

We Want to Hear From You!

How do you see this lesson fitting in your curriculum? Already tried it? Tell us—and other teachers—how the lesson worked for you and your students.

Please leave your comments below, including what grade you teach.

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